Losing an iPad: Simple Things to Protect Identity and Theft on Your Mobile Devices

Last night I had one of those incredibly horrifying moments that I hope you never experience.

Just as I’m getting ready to go to bed at 11 PM in my hotel room I suddenly realize my iPad was missing. Losing an iPad is upsetting – knowing the damage someone could do if they accessed online accounts using my iPad was terrifying.

Fortunately I knew I had some protection because I password protect my devices and had set up Find My iPad/Phone.  Which can’t be said for many of the educators I noticed using mobile devices at ISTE.  But had I done enough?

What have I done!?
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Miguel Angel via Compfight

Here’s what I learned!  And I’m hoping my horrifying moment encourages you to improve the security on your devices.

Enable Find My iPad

Fortunately I had Find My iPad/iPhone enabled on all my devices.  It is one of the first things you should do when you set up a new iOS device.

You’ll find detailed step by step instructions here.

Find my iPad

Enable Password Lock

It’s pointless to use Find My iPad without password lock.  Anyone finding your device before you realise it is missing is able to automatically access all your logged in apps and accounts as well as go to Settings > iCloud and turn off Find My iPad.

My device had been lost for 8 hours before I realised it was missing.  They could have done considerable damage if they had been dishonest and able to use the device.

Fortunately I had password lock set up on my iPad.

Entering a password whenever you use your device may seem inconvenient, but you’ll appreciate having taken the precaution if you ever lose your device.

Here’s how to set up passcodes:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Password Lock.
  2. Turn Passcodes On.
  3. Create a four digit PIN and confirm it.

You can read more about passcodes here.

Password Lock

Enable Restrictions

Restrictions prevent changes being made to accounts or locations.  It works similar to password locking your device except you need to use the correct password to make a change to accounst or locations.

If you don’t take this step, any one that finds your device before the auto-lock engages can simply turn off Find My iPad/iPhone just as fast as you activated it. When Don’t Allow Changes is enabled for locations, the Find My iPad section of Settings > iCloud is greyed out and it can’t be disabled unless you change restrictions for locations to Allow Changes using your passcode.

The idea is you use a different password from your password lock and it adds another barrier to making the change and it might not be something that someone who finds the device will know to look for.

I hadn’t set up restrictions so if someone had been able to work out my password they would have been able to disable Find My iPad.

Here’s how you set up restrictions:

1.  Go to Settings > General > Restrictions.

Go to restrictions

2.  Enable Restrictions.

3.  Create a four digit PIN and confirm it.

4.  Tap on Location Services (under privacy).

5.  Select Don’t Allow Changes.

6.  Tap on Accounts.

7.  Select Don’t Allow Changes.

Don't allow changes

Using Find My Phone

Once you’ve enabled Find My iPhone you can log into iCloud on your computer and use it to locate or erase a lost device.

This is as simple as:

1.  Log into iCloud on your computer.

2.  Click on Find My iPhone.

3.  Click on Devices, if you have more than one device, and then click on the name of the device you are trying to locate.

4.  Now you have the option to Play a sound, enable Lost Mode or Erase the device.

Find my iphone

You can read more about each option here.

The downside of Find My iPhone is your device must be connected to the Internet for it to work.  So in my situation where I’m travelling with an iPad that uses WiFi connections iCloud won’t connect to device until the person who finds it manages to connect to the Internet.  However, I still enabled lost mode so if someone did manage to work out my password, and connect to the Internet, it would immediately contact me.

Setting up Find My Phone on Android Devices

I also have an android tablet I’m travelling with.  Setting up Find my Tablet/Phone isn’t as obvious as on iOS devices.

The best option is to first check if your android includes Find My Phone.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and all Samsung devices have Find my Mobile (Settings > Security > Find My Mobile).

There are also a range of apps you can download for androids that work similar to Find My Phone.

What do you think?

This story did have a happy ending!  I was fairly confident that is fell out of my bag in the hotel lobby.  I went down to the hotel lobby to check and when they couldn’t find it I left my contact details.

The good news is someone had handed it into the hotel reception and the hotel manager had locked it in his office overnight.  So they contacted me once he arrived to let me know they had found it.

I’m thinking:

  1. I should also add a label on the back of my devices with my email address.
  2. What type of security I need to set up on my laptop.

Thoughts?  What other advice do you have? Let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to add it to the post!


6 thoughts on “Losing an iPad: Simple Things to Protect Identity and Theft on Your Mobile Devices

  1. So what happens if someone steels my iPad, but because of password lock, the thieve is unable to hook up into a wifi? How can I use the find my iPad feature if the device is offline?


  2. I’ve had similar experiences and all have ended well. I would like to add some enhancements to what’s here already.
    1) Password strength: The easier a password is to enter, the easier it is to crack. After I complete setup, I generally use the recommended 9+ chars with alpha upper and lower! numeric, and special char included. True, it’s a pain to enter that for me but letting someone else in easily isn’t on my things to do list.
    2) I have my photo on my lock screen as background and a family photo as the main background. This allows me to quickly identify mine if several similar devices are near each other.
    3) The Find my iPhone app is readily available but it hasn’t been as effective as I would like. As a result I have added several free apps all of which have similar features.
    4) Unless the iPad has a network connection of some kind, finding it NOW won’t be possible. I set my apps up to track location so I can see where it’s been even if it’s not online now.
    5) Use apps that allow you to send commands to the iPad IF it does come online at a later time.
    6) To maximize the liklihood of my iPad coming online ASAP, I make it a point to add any WiFi network I can to its profile stack. If the network requires an acknowledgment this probably won’t help if the protection isn’t cracked. I ensure that I add secured networks whenever possible and set the iPad to connect whenever it finds a known network. I recognize the battery implications and priotized location over battery life.
    7) To reduce battery shortage, I also keep charging supplies available at nearly all times and keep it as close to 100% as I can if I have ANY idea I’m going to be leaving soon.
    8) With the mix above, all is wasted if I can’t get to the point of locating my iPad on the associated account. To address that I have matching apps or browser links with account info on my phone and computer.
    9) Don’t waste time!!! Make it a habit to check frequently for your iPad. The more time passes, the more battery drain there is regardless of precautions, if charging isn’t occuring during that period. Take the measures you deem useful in the sequence you like. I have several ways of wiping data and one of those keeps the locator and associated abilities in place. Some allow me to trigger remote backups and some allow me to select what I want to backup.
    10) Make arrangements for backup of critical data based on your priorities. Bear in mind that the iCloud backup leaves out a large part of the data. iTunes backups are more comprehensive but don’t miss the sync step or the restore won’t know how to match up some of your files and they’ll drop the restore, or restore them without giving you a way to access them.

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me :0).

    Hope that helps someone

  3. The last formal session that I attended before the final keynote with Adam Bellow at iste13 was a fascinating one – “From Angry Birds to Minecraft – what games teach us about learning!” I took notes using evernote on my iPad – as I had done for most other sessions. As I left the room, I placed my iPad on the seat next door and packed things into my backpack. 20 mins later, I went to get the iPad out of my backpack and to my sheer dismay, found it was missing. Back to the session room I went but there was no sign of anything. I quickly walked to the ISTE help desk, stated my sad case and was promptly asked if I was Anne. The lady then went out into the back and brought back my iPad.
    The finder of my iPad must have taken it there immediately but had managed to use my mail icon to actually send me an email to say the iPad was found and had been taken to the ISTE help kiosk. I have now followed your instructions, Sue but I hope that I never have to pursue the “Find my iPad” option.

  4. Your tips are spot on. On Mac laptops you can enable a passcode in the Privacy and Security settings and Find my Mac in the iCloud settings.
    I left my iPhone at the registration table in the back of one of the ballrooms at ISTE13. One of the workers found it and before the passcode lock kicked in was able to get my name and announce it to the crowd. We’d walked outside since the seats were all taken) One of my coworkers claimed it for me and called my husband and I had it back in 5 minutes. 🙂

  5. I had the same thing happen to me this week. “Find My iPad” was brilliant. First, it asked me to password protect my computers. Then, it made a beeping sound that alerted those around the iPad.

    I was lucky enough to have a supermarket store employee find my bag and lock it up. She didn’t know that the bag had an iPad until I had the beeping sound activate. Then, she found the iPad and saw the message on the iPad screen that the iPad was lost. It displayed my phone number for the employee to call.

    I was able to retrieve the bag and iPad the next day. I also left a thank-you card with some reward cash. The card said, “Thanks for your honesty. You make the world a better place.”

  6. When I travel, my screen on my lock screen has my phone number for someone to contact me if found.

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